P!Nterview: Meteorologists sharing weather science with students across country

Across the United States and its territories, 122 Warning Coordination Meteorologists (WCM) teach schoolchildren about the wonders of weather science. The National Weather Service (NWS) has an ongoing partnership with the American Meteorological Society to train science teachers in weather forecasting, hydrology, climate and NWS operations, and provides free NOAA Weather Radios to every public school in the country.

Donna Franklin, Program Analyst with the National Weather Service Office of Climate, Water and Weather Services, spoke about NWS’s role in youth education.

What is the National Weather Service’s (NWS) goal in regard education in schools?
The goal of the NWS’s education through in-school visits is twofold – first, and most importantly, to teach students about weather safety and preparedness so they will know what do it when severe weather strikes. Second, NWS wants to encourage interest in math and science through weather education. We hope to inspire students to go into fields related to weather (meteorology, hydrology, engineering, physical sciences) and become future NWS employees!

Can you tell us more about Warning Coordination Meteorologists and their roles in schools?
The NWS has 122 offices throughout the United States and its territories. Each office has a Warning Coordination Meteorologist (WCM). The WCM is one of the most visible positions in the NWS. . In addition to working with emergency management groups and the media to ensure weather warnings are passed to the public, they also coordinate hazardous weather preparedness campaigns (such as Lightning Safety Awareness Week), train hazardous weather spotter groups, help manage the their weather forecast office, forecast weather and lead the hazardous weather education program in their area.

How many school visits do WCMs make each year?
The number of school visits varies by each office. Many offices have a team of people who go out and visit schools and other public outreach events (such as fairs, boat shows and other community events). All in all, the NWS visits about 3,000 schools each year.

In addition to teaching about severe storms, does the National Weather Service speak about safety measures for students to prepare for severe weather?
Yes! The mission of the National Weather Service is to protect lives and property, and you can be certain that every time a WCM visits a school, they talk about specific weather safety and preparedness steps that students can take to protect themselves and their families.

Are presentations and lessons in schools tailored to a class or school’s current curriculum, or do WCMs have established lessons they bring in?
WCMs can tailor presentations to meet the needs of school’s current curriculum and the specific students – from kindergarten to advanced high school students. The basic information is consistent but can be personalized for specific ages or geography. The key is that we provide clear directions on how to prepare for hazardous weather.

What other resources are available for teachers and students outside of in-person visits, through Jet Stream and other sources?
The NWS has numerous websites with information for teachers and students. These are often categorized by types of weather – lightning, floods, heat, hurricanes, rip currents. One site that is particularly helpful and links to other informational sites is www.noaawatch.gov. Another link that provides resources for teachers and students is www.weather.gov/education.php.

(Photograph by Marsha Black, WFO Lubbock Administrative Support Assistant.)